First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Forcing Freedom on the Faithful.
How long will our troops have to remain in Iraq?
Already there is pressure from within Iraq itself -- loud demands by Shi'ite leaders that the U.S. remove its troops immediately. And since the Shi'ites are the majority, how can we possibly remain?
Just remember: Christians are the majority in America -- but Pat Robertson, a "Christian leader," hardly speaks for all Christians.
The most vocal anti-American Shi'ites -- who, by the way, are only able to speak their minds because we removed Saddam from power -- are not demanding that we leave so that Iraq can govern itself democratically.
They want us out of there so they can set up a religious dictatorship like the perpetual freedom festival they have in Iran. If they have an election, it will be with the intention of never having another.
Within Iran itself, the people are coming to detest more and more the meaningless rigidities of religious rule. Being ruled by clerics is like being ruled by Microsoft -- somebody decides what's right for everybody and from then on no variation is permitted.
But -- again as with Microsoft -- while the people already trapped within the system are furious with the incompetence, blindness, and sheer meanness of their rulers, Iran's rulers are looking to expand their defective system into new territory.
In fact, like Communism, the ideology of Islamism demands that true believers never rest until all the world is brought to live under Muslim law -- whether the world wants that law or not. It is fundamentally undemocratic.
There are those who say the same thing about us: We seem to be trying to "impose" democracy on nations that have no democratic tradition, who "aren't ready for it," who have "chosen another way."
Well, let's just give up and plead guilty. Yes, we Americans really do intend that eventually the entire world will be governed under the same kind of system we live under.
You know, the terrible system in which people can say what they think, vote for whatever candidate seems least obnoxious to them, choose their profession freely, marry whom they want, travel wherever they please, buy whatever they can afford (or get someone else to finance), watch TV and read books without anyone forbidding them, and change religions whenever they want and freely offer their religion to others who might also want to change.
Aren't we awful?
Well, yes. We're the nightmare of the ideologues who think every other person should be forced to live by the precepts of their religion whether he believes in it or not.
We're the cruel oppressors of individuals whose lifelong ambition is to be an oppressor.
We're the vicious thieves who rob those who want to rob a nation, and give back what they've stolen to the legitimately elected government of the people.
We're the brainwashers who want to force everyone to believe ... whatever they want, by letting them learn and study anything that strikes their fancy.
We're the tormentor of the tormentors.
We really do believe, just as the Islamists and the Communists do, that the fundamental principles of our system will bring the best chance of happiness to the greatest number of people.
All three systems -- democracy, Islamicism, and Communism -- depend on the belief that human beings are pretty much the same everywhere, so what's right for one nation will probably be about right for others, with only slight adaptations.
The difference is, we're right and they're wrong and history has already proven it.
There is no nation governed by strict Muslim law or by Communism where most people aren't desperately unhappy, miserable, ignorant, and poor. In fact, keeping the people ignorant is the primary means of making sure they continue to do as they're told.
In our system, you can completely disagree even with the core principles of democracy and as long as you do nothing to try to subvert the elected government by force or fraud, nobody will interfere with you.
Whereas under Islamicist governments, as under Communism, you are not permitted to speak aloud any disagreement or doubt you might have about any aspect of the ruling ideology.
But ... if we use force to impose our system on others, aren't we just as bad as the Communists or Islamicists?
Let's ask the Germans and Japanese -- we forced our system on them after World War II. Under the supervision of our troops, we made them hold elections and forced them to vote without fraud or coercion by any party. We made them rid their governments of anyone who might work to restore the old dictatorship -- or a new one. And because of our coercion, their governments began to actually reflect the desires and needs of the people, without interfering with their private lives, as long as they didn't hurt anybody else.
And while we forced this freedom upon them, we protected them from interference by powerful outside nations and ideologies that threatened either invasion or subversion.
And because we're the mean, oppressive imperialists they claim we are, we're planning to do it again. We intend for our troops to remain in Iraq to force them to hold elections in which thugs representing religious fanaticism don't bully people into voting for certain candidates, in which votes are secret and the counting is public and honest (i.e., we won't send any of Al Gore's vote re-counters to show them how to "interpret" "defective" ballots).
We'll use our troops to suppress rioting and anti-democratic terrorism. We'll use our troops to protect their borders from interference by the Nazi Ba'athists of Syria or the fanatical Islamicists of Iran or the anti-Kurdish Turks.
We'll expose the money coming in from the fanatically Islamicist governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran. We'll keep neo-imperialist nations from re-colonizing Iraq as the French and Russians seem inclined to do.
And then, when the job is done, we'll leave -- and let them revile us and slander us and blame us for all the world's ills, the way most other countries do.
Meanwhile, though, they'll be free. Because we forced it on them.
Isn't that awful of us? Clearly we're an offense against God, clearly we're the great Shaitan, just as our Islamicist enemies say. Because we use our military might to force even Muslim nations to be free, when clearly God wants them to be deprived of the ability to fulfil any of the desires that ... God gave them.
God forbid that any Iraqis should choose to live as faithful Muslims because they actually want to, instead of because someone forced it on them.
Copyright © 2003 by Orson Scott Card.
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